Taj Mahal has traveled many paths in his musical career.At one time or another he has sung African songs and Chicago blues with side trips into soul, jazz and rock. On the basis of his show at the Bayou last night, he now appears to have settled in a territory bounded by the Mississippi Delta and the Caribbean.
He featured a style of music that was an intriguing blend of rural blues and Jamaican reggae. Basic blues chords and raw vocals were enlivened by the quirky rhythms and percussion flourishes of island music. An electric guitar and sax met steel drums and congas, producing a sound that was gut-wrenching yet also toe-tapping.
Taj Mahal is an energetic performer in a relaxed sort of way. Wearing a floppy hat, tropical print shirt and baggy pants, he shuffled about to the swaying music, stopping occasionally to reach back for a low, bluesy refrain or a lonesome howl. His voice assumed various guises, from the gruff, gravelly sound of the old blues masters to the youthfully exciting phrasing of Caribbean chanters.
The wandering spirit which has characterized his music so far suggests that Taj Mahal's journeys may not be over. But for the moment, with the tinkling sounds of steel drums playing in the background, he has found a sprightly and engaging musical home.